Grand Challenges Explorations is a competition that poses challenges and awards $100,000 to innovators who can tackle them. This year, in the competition’s 14th round, over 1,800 applications were received from 109 countries that presented potential solutions to six questions reflecting real-world problems. This round’s challenges included:
- Presenting new technologies that ward off malaria-carrying mosquitoes in outdoor environments to supplement indoor innovations such as mosquito netting and repellant spray
- Presenting new ideas to support the Eliminate Dengue project, a study that breeds, releases and monitors mosquito populations
- Developing cost-efficient and globally applicable solutions to reduce pneumonia-related deaths in children
- Creating technologies that allow merchants to accept mobile money payments
- Presenting new methods of studying brain development and gestational age in newborns
- Building upon and supporting preexisting community-based medical dissemination campaigns
Five previous winners were also awarded an additional $1 million to support continuing research in their field.
One project that won the challenge is headed by an organization called Merck for Mothers and is committed to reducing the 300,000 birth-related deaths that occur annually in India. Merck’s project is designed to empower low-income, limited-literacy women and improve the care that they receive from doctors and nurses. They have launched a smartphone application similar to Yelp that informs pregnant women on integral components of maternal care, allows them to anonymously provide feedback on the care that they received and demand improvement from healthcare providers. The product is sustainable, as it puts knowledge in the hands of its users and also helps them work to see improvements. Thus, it will continue to develop and improve its efficacy as its user-base grows and becomes better informed on quality healthcare.
Partnering with advocacy group Ribbon Alliance India and technology developer Gram Vaani, Merck has seen successful initial trials, such as in Jharkhand, where it received 10,000 calls in only four months. It hopes to reach all of India and other countries as well, eventually.
Through funding from Grand Challenges Explorations, innovation is encouraged and innovators are given the chance to see their ideas be put into action for the betterment of communities all over the world.
– Jenna Wheeler